What Do Customers Want from Independent and Small Chain Restaurants?

If you’re setting up or refurbishing a restaurant your main concern will be how to make your customers happy. You want people to not only enjoy dining in your restaurant but to come back, and to spread the word about how well you do what you do. So, what do customers want from a small chain or independent restaurant, and how can you deliver it?

what customers want independent restaurant

No matter what kind of venue you run there will be some common things customers are looking for when they choose where to eat. There may be slight differences according to your demographic, but the main things customers want from a small chain or independent restaurant are predominantly the same. We did a small survey and combined the responses with more research to find out what exactly customers want. Here’s what we found:

Whole experience

small chain restaurant design

The most important thing to your customer is their overall experience of eating in your restaurant. Millennials in particular place more emphasis on having great experiences than on material things, and when this is applied to dining out they want a great ambience and atmosphere, but also to experience something unique to that place. This might be the original way you serve the food, a special dish that they can’t get anywhere else or the music you play. Check out Chicago’s Alinea for major inspiration – here customers don’t book a table, they book an experience.

Consider all aspects of your customer’s time in your restaurant, from the height of the tables to the comfort of the seating, the glow of the lighting to the friendliness of your staff. Aim to provide something holistic and memorable. If you have a strong concept for your restaurant, make sure your interior design and food tell that story.


Leading on from providing a great customer experience is the exterior and interior design of your restaurant. This is a crucial factor not only in how people feel when they are inside your restaurant, but in getting them though the door in the first place. Your design needs to address the practical aspects of cooking and serving food, as well as conveying what you’re all about. Customers want interesting artwork, natural materials, a thoughtful layout, gentle lighting and comfort. They want somewhere that’s on trend but not cliched, with its own clear identity and confidence. They want an interior that reflects the cuisine, but that’s not a pastiche.

Be mindful of the increasing use of social media – especially Instagram – by discerning customers who want to check out places before they try them. If you have a presence online use it to show off your beautiful interior and food, and make it easy for customers to share their own Insta-worthy images.

Fresh, local ingredients

independent restaurant interior designer

This is as important to customers as your restaurant interior design. Customers expect small chains and independent restaurants to provide a quality alternative to fast-food chains. They want locally-sourced, fresh ingredients prepared with care and skill. Being part of the local community is important for millennials, so make sure you make your restaurant is at the heart of your town or area, if not physically then in its commitment to supporting local growers and suppliers. People want flexible menus that cater for food intolerances, vegetarians and vegans, not as an afterthought but with equally delicious, interesting dishes.


Whilst not a priority for most customers choosing an independent restaurant, price is still important. You need to offer great value for money, but not at the expense of excellent service and knowledgeable staff. Invest in the current technological tools to help your customers pay and order smoothly.

Great service

restaurant interior design success

People want friendly, informative staff who are attentive without being intrusive. They want a speedy service but to be able to linger over their meal if they want. They want to feel valued and important, so employ customer-focussed staff who can be the best ambassadors for your venue. Online review websites are the new word-of-mouth, so make sure you give your customers plenty of excellent things to say about you.



Take care of these fundamental essentials and you are well on the way to having a successful, buzzing restaurant, full of happy customers. What do you look for when choosing an independent restaurant?

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